Uçhisar Fortress

The rock-carved fortress-village of Uçhisar is one of the main reasons I would like to go back to Cappadocia. The 1270 meter high peak stands a couple of hundred meters above the surrounding flat landscape, and is immediately visible when you take the road towards Nevşehir from Göreme. After I saw this breathtaking fortress, I realized that it is a short walk from Göreme. If we had completed our walk along the Zemi valley, we would have come up near it. We could also have walked along the Valley of Dovecotes, or just taken a taxi, if we had left ourselves enough time on subsequent days. But an ancient fortress which now welcomes tourists to stay in rock-cut rooms is a good reason to go back to this enchanting plateau.

How old is this fortress? It is certainly recorded by the Ottomans in the 15th century CE, when they began to push back the Seljuks, who had won this territory in the 11th century. But it seems that the Byzantines may have used it as a frontier fortress in the iconoclast centuries, between the 8th and 10th centuries CE, when it was busy defending its empire against the Arab expansion. It is barely a two-day walk to the ancient city of Hattusa (modern day Bogazkale), which was the capital of a people called the Hatti. The Hatti had fought off the Akkadian king Sargon in about 2300 BCE, fallen to his grandson Naram Sim half a century later, and been occupied by the Hittite king Anitta in 1700 BCE. The technology of this early Bronze Age would have sufficed to carve rooms into the ignimbrite rock of this area. So it is not out of the bounds of reason to believe that Uçhisar played a role in these historic wars. But I cannot find any archeological studies which actually date the beginnings of these excavations.

As we traveled across the plateau, we got glimpses of Uçhisar from several directions. The most spectacular view is from the road to Göreme (featured photo), but the one from the Valley of Doves (above) is also superb. The fortress has been evacuated, but a route is still open for tourists to climb to the top of the peak. On our last evening I’d half-planned to spend the evening walking in the village of Uçhisar and finding dinner there. But that day was tiring, and we came back to Göreme without stopping on the way. So Uçhisar remains to be explored on our next trip.