Daughter and I recently did a long weekend road trip. 4 days of driving with no real destination in mind so the next few posts will no doubt be giving you some of the highlights of our trip.
Originally we were heading towards Goreme to go ballooning but a last minute decision was made to go west as it was hot and Daughter wanted to swim so we started driving west towards Alayna going via Kizkalesi, Narlikuyu, Silifke and finally ending our road trip in Yesilovacik also known as “literally the middle of nowhere”.
Just past Kizkalesi is a small tourist sign – Cennet ve Cehennem (Heaven and Hell).
“Oh let’s go check out the caves”, she said. “It’ll be fun”, she said. Well SHE needs a kick up the ass and by SHE I mean ME because it was MY silly idea.
Cennet ve Cehennem are actually two large sinkholes and, as someone who knows little about sinkholes I’ve got to say, they are pretty huge. I mean I have seen sinkholes on television where houses are swallowed up in Florida or that big one somewhere in Mexico (I think) that took out a whole neighbourhood. They seem to be popping up everywhere these days thanks to fracking and all sorts of other less than stellar reasons but Cennet and Cehennem are natural sinkholes that have been there for thousands of years.
We started off walking to Cehennem because Hell seems more likely in my future. It is only a 5 minute walk up a small incline. A pleasant walk on a pleasant spring day. The sinkhole itself is masterful and Mother Nature has definitely outdone herself. The opening is small but has a depth of 128 metres. I felt quite nauseous standing on the edge but Daughter being Daughter threw her legs over the side to take a photo to message to The Turk (just to “freak him out”). Don’t worry though there is a barrier around the edge – you are quite safe.
Interesting titbit – according to mythology, after Zeus defeated the hundred-headed dragon named Typhon he kept him in Hell for a while before imprisoning him under Mt Etna. Good to know.
After visiting Hell we started off towards Heaven. After the first 50 or so steps we passed a group making their way back up. A mixed bunch but the one thing they all had in common was that they were all bright red from exertion. As they puffed past me I murmured geçmiş olsun (get well soon). I got a wave and a groan – it was clear they were all too exhausted to speak (or couldn’t get their breath). Crap! What am I doing?
Daughter ran off ahead leaving me to waddle along at my own pace. By the time I reached the small chapel (at about 300 steps) it was clear that I was in over my head (literally because I must have been about 100 metres down the sinkhole at this point). I started wondering whether they could airlift my body out of here or maybe some kind of winch system set up behind the scenes because I didn’t know how I was going to drag my ass up all these stairs.
The chapel itself was apparently built by a believer by the name of Paulus in the 5th or 6th century. You really have got to give credit where credit is due. Paulus must have had some major love for Saint Mary because he would have had to carry those stone blocks down the 300+ stairs to get to the landing. Kudo’s to you Paulus.
We continued past the chapel to reach the mouth of the cave. This climb is a little tricky now as the as the stone stairs were quite slippery from precipitation. The cave itself was a lot cooler and quite a reprieve on a hot day. Daughter ran off attempting to reach the back of the cave to find the source of the stream that we could hear however that proved to be impossible while I chose to sit on a rock and contemplate my new life in the cave (because like I said I was pretty sure I would never be able to drag myself back out of the sinkhole).
After spending 30 minutes of exploring the cave it was time to leave. Standing at the mouth and looking up, well I’ve got to be honest, it was going to be a monumental task. All up there is 452 stairs to reach the top! 452 stairs! But I did it and without the need of the imaginary winch too. We passed a group on their way down and, seeing my red faced and fatigued self, said “geçmiş olsun”. I groaned and waved while Daughter continued to jog up the stairs (sometimes I hate that kid).
Now in future when I get a hair brain idea like visiting caves anywhere I will make sure I do a little research first and it will go a little something like this:
Janey: Is there 450+ stairs in my foreseeable future?
Janey: Umm … yep.
Janey: Feck my life!
Need to know:
Cennet ve Cehennem is off the D400 at Narlikuyu. There are no buses to the site itself so you will need to either drive or walk.
Entry fee is 10TL (5TL per cave). Asthma Cave is 3TL. Toilets are 1TL. Parking is free. There is the possibility of a camel ride around the carpark at a negotiated price.
There is a café at the top of Heaven as well as a few tourist shops. There are many lokantalar along the road up to the caves serving typical Turkish food.
Oh and take water. Lots of water!
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